Monthly Archives: April 2011


Valve Software advertised their release of Portal 2 using an Alternate Reality Game, or ARG. A series of puzzles led to a game that encouraged players to play a set of indie games in order to release the game early. The players participated, and Portal 2 was released 10 hours early.

A lot of people are upset about this.

At first I was really confused about how angry people were acting, even accounting for the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Valve had put together a cool set of puzzles, offered a bunch of indie games for cheap, and then actually gave players a real-world reward for playing. However, I’ve realized that the displeasure the ARG created is due to a classic problem in game design: miscommunication leading to false expectations.
Continue reading PO(r)TA(l)T(w)O


I was recently linked to “Convergence,” the first game by a group called Streetlight Studios. It’s a Flash game about growing up and making choices; it could be described as a mix of “Passage,” “Pathways,” and “How to Raise a Dragon,” which is a pretty amazing combination.

The game asks you to follow a character from infancy to old age, making choices along the way. Infancy makes you crawl around your house as a baby getting toys before your sibling, in an odd exploration platformy way. Adulthood has you balancing love and work; I’m glad that they didn’t make this drag on too long. Shades of “Every Day the Same Dream” here. Old age, at least in the ending I got, was more of a little vignette to cap off the choices made in the rest of the game.

Looking up at my description, this game sounds like a mixing-together of various art games, and it’s definitely inspired by the work others have done before, but the polish and design in “Convergence” makes it feel fresh. Definitely something to check out for fans of blocky pixel games about life and choices.

Character Progression in F.E.A.R.

An enemy from F.E.A.R. seen through the scope of a sniper rifleI’ve resumed writing for GameSetWatch. My latest column just went live; it’s called Character Progression in F.E.A.R., and it’s about how increasing the player character’s options instead of increasing their strength can prevent a game from feeling flat.

F.E.A.R. was an odd game for me. The shooting part was fun and pretty and it was just the right amount of difficulty (or sometimes a bit too hard), but the rest of the game was… not very interesting. The horror elements rarely grabbed me, the story was almost pastiche, and the dramatic twists were clear to me after the first level. That’s not even bringing up one of the most offensive video game characters in recent memory. Hey, it’s a fat guy! And he’ll get bumbling clown music! And you’ll know that you’re about to meet him again when you see food wrappers scattered around. Seriously.

So while F.E.A.R. is technically advanced for its time and well-designed from a gameplay perspective, I was ready for it to be over about halfway through. And that’s never a situation you want a player to be in.